Hundreds of Long Islanders protested outside Donald Trump’s rally in Bethpage Wednesday, calling his candidacy and rhetoric a danger to the country.
Police estimated that about 200 anti-Trump protesters chanted and shouted at supporters walking or taking shuttle buses into the rally at Grumman Studios.
When Trump supporters were turned away from the rally because it was full, they formed their own pro-Trump rally outside, facing off with protesters. The sides shouted at each other over metal barricades quickly erected by police. Mounted police and officers in riot gear separated the two groups.
Anti-Trump protesters shouted “Dump Trump” and “This is what America looks like!”
Trump supporters shouted back, “Build that wall” and “Trump!”
At some points, both sides shouted: “USA!”
Jane and Paul Federman of Valley Stream held signs saying “Stop Fascism,” with a picture of Trump and Adolf Hitler.
“This is the first time I’m afraid of an election,” said Jane Federman, a physician, pointing to Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants and Muslims.
Mahira Siddiqi, 36, and three friends in hijabs felt compelled to come to the protest because of “the level of hate that has been spewed lately, not only to Muslims, but to women and immigrants,” she said.
Andy Stepanian, 37, of Huntington, said, “I feel like he has tapped into an undercurrent and turned up the vitriol.”
Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Alliance, which organized the protest, said tensions “got so escalated” because a number of ticketed Trump supporters were turned away. She estimated there were 400 protesters.
Most Trump supporters ignored the protesters. Others took out cellphones to record them, while others shouted back.
Joe Naso, a carpenter from Franklin Square, said he had tickets but arrived too late, so he shouted at the protesters to show his support for Trump.
Naso said Trump’s stance on illegal immigration attracted his support. “I believe in everything he’s all about — to make this country better, helping the working people who are trying to get ahead in life, who are struggling right now,” said Naso, 52.
“I lost a lot of work over the years because of all the illegals who come here and work for less.”
Kevin Kilanowski, 21, of Patchogue, bristled at all the signs accusing Trump of being a racist. “He doesn’t care what color you are, as long as you work hard and pay your taxes,” said the Suffolk Community College student.
Nassau police brought in about 17 officers from its highly trained Bureau of Special Operations unit in riot gear, who stood near the protesters. Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, commanding officer of the department’s Public Information Office, said the move was “standard operating procedure.”